Ultrabook Ultimate Coder Week 2: Gaps in tech initiate restarts and innovation

I have to remind myself that Week 2 is actually the end of Week 1, and with that it is a bit mind boggling these developers are already deep into the tech after 1 week. We are already learning a lot from these projects. Any developer considering an Windows 8 project should certainly tune in. There are a lot of mine fields being exposed as well as tricks and tips being implemented. With that in mind here is the run down of the developers and judges for week 2 of the Ultimate Coder: Ultrabook Challenge

Devs make tough technical and feature decisions:
Each developer is now facing an interesting dilemma for their project. Each have a new piece of hardware technology and a split personality OS. First touches on the technology are bringing to light challenges and a need for quick decisions.

Lee is not only building an app, he is building upon his app development tool AGK(App Game Kit). He knows he can build the app using his tool but he has to get his Software to leverage the technology in the Ultrabook thru the Windows 8 OS. Knowing that WinRT does not support OpenGL, Lee has decided to take on the challenge of writing his own OpenGL to DirectX libraries for AGK.

The universe has put me in this challenge, and has just turned the heat up to see if I explode. I’ve looked at it from every angle, and there is only one way through. Write my own OpenGL library in DirectX 11.

I've known Lee for a while and this very much his style. If the tech doesn't readily exist, Lee's approach is to innovate. That is brave and bold. I hope Lee has the time to get all of his work done.

However not everything can be solved with software innovation. Sagar also discovered issues trying to get WinRT to work with Intel WiDi, NFC, and Always On Always Connect features. Because of these early compatibility issues between WinRT and the hardware features, the Shufflr team is considering a shifting the featured set for their app.

It was a hard choice. We could not think of a way to build, in 5 weeks, a product-grade Windows8 native desktop app that will awe our users. We were clearly staring at a Metro app without WiDi & AOAC. How do we bring some life back to the party? We took a close look at all the sensors available on Ultrabook, tried out the APIs from the Ultrabook and Tablet Windows 8 Sensors Development Guide and are right now discussing designs that bring other sensors into the Shufflr experience

I really hope they land in a good place. This is an app I'm closely watching and would love to have.

The rest of the developer pack are having similar decisions to make. John and Gavin from Soma Games are getting far along in their app, building a new game from the ground up for both Ultrabook and iOS in parrallel. While Gavin is "gleeful" to make use of extra processing and memory in the Ultrabook, he realizes a greater need to think thru UI implications regarding variable screen resolutions etc. Andreas and Shailesh both are working through "UIing" their app and considering touch and layout configurations. George and Suresh are feature focused beyond Windows 8 Ultrabook hardware but really looking at how to advance Money Bag from 1.0 to 2.0 with more features.

So for the developers some early discover, new directions, innovation and feature considerations already. It is as if the code part of the project is actually a secondary thing to all of these decisions. So far it looks like decisions are being made quickly. We can only guess what would have happened if other calls were made.

Judges begin passing judgement:
With week 1 we heard a lot of excitement and anticipation from our judges. This week is not different but I am hearing a slight tone shift from anticipation to critical feedback. Steve "Chippy Paine does a good job reviewing each of the dev postings but in his review he is already do his own accounting. Steve explains while he is most excited by John's app, he's not hearing enough details. Steve also steps out and says he is most impressed with George and Suresh, finding the amount of detail they are publishing week to week to show a great effort. Chis on the other hand says he is not seeing George and Suresh discuss Ultrabook specific features enough. However Chris is seeing maturity across the board with these developers, noting that the developers at this stage are well focused on the user interface and experience over technical coding. Helena and Jon however have been less critical. They like I are still amazed how much is being done in 1 week of development.

There are some fundamental issues exposed here, especially valuable to any developer considering a Windows 8 project. Despite if a port or a build from scratch, each project will have to determine whether or not to use Win32 APIs or WinRT APIs for their Windows 8 project. For some, a Windows 8 UI (aka Metro) style app might either has to take a gamble on features or have to wait until the compatibility is further along. And going Desktop mode, might not be a bad decision. The Desktop Mode of Windows 8 can leverage all the hardware and sensors in the Ultrabook. Thus you are not sacrificing in terms of creating a good app experience or square pegging a round hole to fit into the UI scheme. The downside is your app will not be able to use the specific WinRT APIs, Live Tile features or be sold thru Windows store pre-installed on every Windows 8 device. These are real bridges every developer will cross with Windows 8 and I recommend you look at Shailesh's post as he attributes characteristic differences in apps for Windows 8 Desktop mode vs Windows 8 UI mode apps. .

In terms of devices, as one of the judge (Chippy aka Steve) called out, the ‘reference device’, as lending itself to the notion of ‘snackable’ mode and ‘productive’ mode. At the device level, we see that notion as the ‘tablet’ mode and the ‘laptop’ mode. At the interaction level, we see that notion as touch interaction and mouse interaction. At the OS level, we see that notion as ‘Metro’ mode and ‘Desktop’ mode. And at a user mind set level, we see that notion as ‘Consumption’ mode and ‘Creation’ mode. Our app is a consumption mindset app, so we will also take a forward-looking view and build for Windows 8 Metro.

I should note AppUp or other Windows store solutions are available for Desktop mode apps and those apps can be "listed" (indexed and linked but not sold) in the Windows 8 store.

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